After some fifteen minutes of running about in search of Charity, we sadly conclude she is avoiding us on purpose and decide to go without her.
‘That girl with her chinge eyes, God will punish her!’ Tanya says with pungent spite. ‘Let me just catch her in the hostel this afternoon, I will break her two front teeth.’
I can’t even say a word. It feels as though I just received a death sentence. Bilikis too is strangely quiet, but with a pensive look on her face.
We arrive at the door to the SBHM’s office, and I give my girlfriends one last look before I walk into my impending doom.
‘Let’s just tell the truth.’ I say to them. Didn’t someone say the truth can make one free?
‘Alisiobi, who are these you have brought with you?’ SBHM thunders and it reverberates through the room. She has been rumored to have been a man in her previous life, her voice is as deep as an offshore oil well. I wonder, somewhere at the back of my mind, how she stores the surnames of every student in her head without mixing them up.
‘They are my roommates ma. They came as witnesses.’
She scoffs, then faces Bilikis and begins to converse with her in Yoruba. Initially, I’m surprised, but then I remember they have this relationship –I met Bilikis at her house the first time I was there in JS1. Bilikis responds animatedly, gesticulating with her limbs, mouth and eyes. While I gape on, I can only hope in silence that whatever she’s saying is working in my favor.
The door hinges squeak as Sinemile opens it and steps in, the plaster covering her self-inflicted wound still on her face. It takes all the strength I can muster on an empty stomach not to jump on her and give her a good bite.
‘Emily, you finally decided to join us. Are we not lucky?’ SBHM says with sarcasm as her eyes dart towards the door. Bilikis stops talking.
‘Good day ma.’
‘Why are you just coming?’
‘Didn’t I give you a time to be here?’
‘You did ma. I’m sorry. I lost track of time.’ Sinemile’s countenance is so poor and lowly, you’d almost want to weep for her if you didn’t know her.
‘It’s alright.’ SBHM says. She turns to me.
‘Tell me everything from the beginning’ she says, ‘And don’t tell a single lie, Alisiobi, or this matter goes to the school’s disciplinary board right away.’
My mouth goes dry with nerves. I throw a glance towards Tanya on my left and manage to catch the encouraging smile she gives me. Then I begin to tell my story, from the very beginning –the social night evening at Gbugbemi, three years ago.
Screams rent the air in Dikibo house. People are gathered in a cluster on the corridors of Rooms 5 and 6. Girls with scanty clothes litter the courtyard, talking on top of their voices. Someone is near the toilet block, crying her eyes out. People rush towards her as she slumps to the floor. Bilikis and I are just walking into the hostel after the unending investigation we just had at the SBHM’s office. Tanya hurried to the tuckshop as soon as we finished; we had stayed beyond the normal lunch time and she claimed she needed a quick stomach fix. We left Sinemile at the SBHM’s office because, as it turned out, some parts of her story did not add up and SBHM has decided to ‘detain her for further questioning’. Funny how that sounded when she said it.
We walked out of the office feeling hopeful. Despite Charity ditching us at our time of need, Bilikis and Tanya had been very strong in there, choosing to miss classes for the rest of the day just to help me get vindicated from the hassle I had caught myself in. I knew there and then who my true friends were, and that I owed them one big time. The SBHM had really softened towards me by the time we left, but whether or not she believed my story, I was yet to find out. We are to return at break time tomorrow.
Bilikis and I advance towards the teeming crowd, our curiosity piqued.
‘Someone must have stolen again.’ She says to me. We have had a number of thefts in our hostel already, and it always causes uproars whenever the culprit is caught. But what I see is way too much reaction for a theft, so I don’t agree with her. I don’t tell her though; I’m learning to talk less and less these days.
‘Pour water on her face!’ somebody screams from behind us.
‘Give her space now. Una wan kill am?’ Another voice barks.
We start maneuvering our way through the crowd. As it looks, the source of the pandemonium is in Room 6, our room. Typical!
‘Carry her out! Carry her out now!!!’ Senior Sumbo the house captain is saying atop her voice. It seems nobody is listening to her today and I can hear her frustration in her orders. I couldn’t care less.
Serves you right fool! My subconscious barks at her as I recall how the senior gave me up when I needed her.
Bilikis is the first to reach the scene and when she shudders and says ‘OH MY GOD!’ in a very thin unfamiliar voice, I know this is definitely a grave situation.
I stand on my toes and stretch my neck, and when I see what others are seeing, my blood turns ice-cold.
Lying haplessly on the floor with both eyes shut is Charity Enyema, the same one who bailed on us this morning.
Oh no, she’s dead!